It was Ahiru who left first. The sun rose further and further into the sky, and for a while both refused to step away, taking comfort the simplicity of each other's companionship. But they needed to get up sometime. Ahiru, for one, being the shy and rarely brazen girl she was, could hardly stand the interaction. Even if he was asleep, every time she dared open an eye she would flush in her mind. It was too much to take! Of course, she didn't know that Fakir was thinking the same thing as he took glances at his feathered companion. But it was still the duck who left first, inching away from him slowly until she was back on her nest on the desk. Fakir was both disappointed and relieved – he definitely wouldn't have been the one to "wake" first, and he didn't want to have to deal with the awkwardness that would definitely ensue if Duck caught him feigning sleep. So, after a few more minutes to seem like he'd been unconscious and allowed time to rise, he "woke up", and they started the day. He said nothing to the girl about what had happen, and she mentioned nothing as well. Neither knew the other had known, and they'd like it to remain as such.
Breakfast was as usual – Fakir prepared himself whatever he felt like that day, and a big bowl of corn and other vegetables for Ahiru, always fresh. At first he had questioned what to feed her – part of him wanted to feed her as a person would, the other reasoned that since she was, after all, a duck, it wouldn't be too bad to just give her a duck's food. His guardian always said Fakir's pet duck (for that is what he believed she was) should just get the scraps, but the boy refused. Ahiru didn't really care what she ate, but couldn't communicate this to Fakir. So they finally settled on a vegetable breakfast – rudimentary for a human, extravagant for your ordinary waterfowl. Middle ground for a bird girl. She quacked quaintly as she plopped onto the dinner table, and Fakir allowed a small laugh. Not a moment after placing her bowl in front of her, the girl attacked the food and ate with zeal, much more enthusiastic than your average duck. The tanned boy allowed a moment to watch her humanity with a low smile, then ate his own food. And after breakfast and the customary odd looks from his guardian, the two set off. Usually, Fakir would return to school and Duck would be left at home. He was still a boy, after all, and still enrolled in his studies at the Academy. But on weekends he devoted his time to Duck, and she relished their time together. The girl hated to think what he did at school without her – both because she missed going to school herself, missed Pike and Lilie and learning to dance, and because she knew how popular the boy was, and her girlish mind couldn't help but get jealous at whatever scenarios she imagined him going through with his fans. Weekends were her times of bliss, where she could be absolutely certain she held claim to at least some of Fakir's time and attention. As for the boy in question, he held a similar sentiment.
Today, like most days, they went to the pond. It was a quiet, calm place, and though they couldn't talk or hang out together as most people do, they simply enjoyed each other's company. Duck would sit on the water, and Fakir on the dock, writing in his journal or throwing bread into the water for her to fetch, like a little game. Occasionally she would trot up onto the wood and look over his shoulder. She could still read, though it became harder as her eyes reverted to a duck's usual vision. But it didn't change the fact she enjoyed Fakir's stories. And he, too, would sometimes step down to her world. Hop in the pond and swim for a bit, side by side with the girl. It was his way of showing he could shrink the distance between them, if only to himself. He didn't know how much Ahiru appreciated the action.
This day was like many others, and remained lazy and simple. He didn't feel like writing much, so he wrote about his surroundings. He wrote of the trees and the pond itself. Duck didn't feel like swimming much, as well, and glided along the surface of the murky turquoise water. Sometimes she would glance up at her companion, or he would glance down to her, or their eyes would meet, and all would end in smiling. But a deep honk ripped through the silence. And it was not Ahiru's honk. Four eyes shot to the other side of the pond, where a small brace of ducks landed in the water from flight. Fakir tensed up, and his gaze shot down to Ahiru to see what she would do. Her round eyes remained transfixed on her kind, until one of the ducks took notice of her as well. He quacked briefly to the others, and they looked to her as well. Bobbing their heads, they invited her over. Her yellow head spun back to Fakir, but he feigned disinterest, looking back into his journal. Duck paused for a moment. Then, slowly gliding across the water, she moved to the other birds.
The man glanced warily out of his journal to the girl. It was only now did her state resonate in him. She was talking with ducks, fitting in with ducks. He panicked for a moment when he lost sight of her among the white and gray feathers, then relaxed as her yellow sheen glanced at him from across the pond. But his brow remained furrowed. It was something he'd never considered – what if she wanted to be with other ducks? He'd never thought about her life before being Ahiru, when she really was a duck and had been content to be so. Well, he imagined she'd been content like that. The girl was really so adaptable, he figured she'd be content as anything. She must have had a family. A flock. Somewhere to call home. Where was that now? Did she want to return? With each thought he only grew more uneasy, clenching his pencil harder until his thin nails sank into the wood. He tried to set the ideas aside and go back to his book, but the deep brown eyes always looked carefully out of their corners, wary of the flock opposite to him.
Duck chatted casually with her kind. And it was her turn as well to realize something. Ducks were awful conversationalists. Water, water, duck, you're a new duck, you're a pretty duck, have you eggs, where are your eggs, eggs, nest? Where's your nest? She tried to respond politely, saying she had neither eggs nor a nest on this pond, but the other ducks only jabbered on without her, their words as nonlinear as their thoughts. The female sighed and slowly backed away, though she kept a polite distance so they would know she was not so rude as to leave entirely. She knew it wasn't right to feel as such, but she didn't like being a duck. She hardly remembered how to be a duck at all – yes, she knew what it was to be one, what to eat, how to act, but when it came to other ducks she might as well have been the human she wished she was. Really the only parts of her life she could remember was when she was human, trying to help Mytho and learning at the ballet school. They were the only parts of her life that mattered. Though she supposed now she'd have to get used to being a duck. Though she really didn't want to. It was only another obstacle to keep her from being – and doing – what she wanted.
They spoke for a short time, Fakir ever watchful behind his leather notebook. Then, the flock signaled to each other it was time to go. The boy felt relieved as he saw them exit the bond, and Ahiru begin her return to their side, back to the dock and the town and humanity. But a shrill quack from the others made her turn her head back for a moment. Always more room in the flock, we need a new female in the flock, join the flock, flock? Seed, eggs, nest, nest with the flock? Ahiru stopped a moment. She looked back between Fakir and the flock, Fakir and the flock. She was a duck now. She'd decided that. Shouldn't she live with other ducks?
The boy's heart nearly leapt out of his chest as he saw her second guessing, turning back and forth between the humans and the birds. Which would she choose?
Oh, this is stupid. I don't even like those birds. And besides, I can be a duck and live with a human. I'd rather not be with those smelly waterfowls anyway. She thought with a decisive nod. Her wings flapped, pushing her out of the water and on to the dock, where she sat next to Fakir with a triumphant look and quacked loudly to the others. Nest, nest is here. Flock is here. The ducks bobbed their heads absently, as if shrugging, then trotted away from the pond. Ahiru looked back to Fakir, then hopped onto his shoulder, nuzzling her fluffy feathers into his cheek. Flock is here.
They stayed that way, and went home, Ahiru remaining on his shoulder, and quickly falling asleep against his warmth. Fakir only smiled. He didn't know what she was thinking, but he knew that she'd chosen to stay with him, and that said more than they could ever have expressed in words.